Privatization alive and well in the state & local arena

Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 04:16 PM

If you were foolish enough to think that the thousand serious problems facing our ever-diminishing country had distracted the free marketeers from their push to privatize everything that does and doesn't move, think again.

Selected headlines and items from the very recent past:

1. The Jackson Sun (Tenn)

Board acts to privatize library

About a dozen audience members stared in disbelief as the Jackson-Madison County Library Board decided Wednesday to enter contract negotiations for library management with private bidder Library Systems and Services LLC.

The vote surprised those at the meeting because board members recently had said they would not take action toward privatizing library management until after a court has heard an appeal by Madison County.

2. Buffalo News Sep. 7

County must not be allowed to 'privatize' Wendt Beach
This is a last-ditch effort to let the public know about the latest attempt of the Erie County executive to balance the county budget on the back of the county parks system.
I am one of a group of taxpayers who have fought for the past 11 months to stop the privatization of the 148 acres of lakefront land at Wendt County Park and the sale of 58 acres of the Sturgeon Point Bluffs, both in the Town of Evans. Both these parklands were designated for public use, and yet our government feels public beaches are disposable.

More than 1,000 petitions and letters have been sent to the County Legislature in an effort to stop this change in park use, yet County Executive Joel Giambra insists the plans will proceed, despite the "small group of people" protesting it.

3. The Jackson Clarion Ledger (Miss.) Sep. 6

City to privatize delivering hot meals
By Kathleen Baydala
Jackson's Department of Human and Cultural Services will no longer deliver daily hot meals to elderly residents effective Oct. 1.

Instead, a private company will deliver five frozen meals to residents once a week, Acting Department Director Michael Raff announced during Wednesday's budget hearings.

Raff said his department was having trouble maintaining its aging fleet of vehicles and keeping meals at the proper temperature.

"We simply can't carry on the program the way it is now with our vehicle situation, and we don't have money to purchase new ones," he said. "Another concern was the quality of the food. It's difficult to maintain the right temperature when a driver has 50 houses to visit in a morning."

4. The Jackson Clarion Ledger (Miss.), Sep 5

Don't privatize city golf courses

The Jackson municipal golf courses are a great value for the city and should not be privatized. They provide an affordable place to play for all golfers.

Actually, the golf courses are not bad, considering their annual budget. They could be improved with additional equipment and staffing; however, that requires additional funding.

We all know that the city has a deficit and additional money is unlikely. Privatization options are always brought up in budgeting shortfalls. Many participants at the courses are against privatization because we believe that the courses are a valuable asset and a benefit to Jackson.

Further, privatization will increase the fees without providing additional improvements.

Public courses are functioning well in Vicksburg, Pearl, Greenville, Natchez and Monroe, La. If these cities can provide municipal golf, I am sure we can do it in Jackson.

Clarence L. Maholmes

5. Joliet Herald News, IL 09/16/06

Chicago seeks to privatize Midway

The Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The city has filed for permission to lease its Midway Airport to a private contractor, a move Chicago officials say could increase revenue without raising taxes.

Officials filed a preliminary application with the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday under a pilot program that will let up to five U.S. airports be leased or sold, officials said. The program allows for only one large commercial hub.

"By filing our preliminary application, it's a placeholder for that hub spot," said Dana Levenson, the city's chief financial officer.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency would review the application "as quickly as possible."

The city also recently privatized its Chicago Skyway toll road. Last year, it leased the 7.8-mile highway to an Australian-Spanish consortium for 99 years in exchange for $1.83 billion.

New York state leased its much smaller Stewart Airport in New Windsor, 55 miles north of New York City, in 2000 for $35 million plus a percentage of future income. London-based National Express Group PLC now operates that airport.

6. The Mirror (Mich)

Sep 15, 2006

Cities, schools use sharing, privatization to cut costs
Facing ever-increasing costs, cities are using a lesson from childhood -- sharing is good -- to keep expenses down.

Another method to cut costs, one that isn't taught to children but has become more popular with cities and school district, is privatizing services.
Smaller cities -- both in size and population -- have fewer demands for some services, leaving those areas ripe for privatization.